To sit or to do
By Claire Scott, 9th September 2021
Go, go, go. Children’s activity clubs, meals to prepare, work deadlines to meet, evening meetings to attend. Red, amber, green….GO!
The rush, rush, rush of life that can so easily pile up was what we all took a deep breath from as the Covid pandemic struck last Spring. Amongst the tragedy and heartache, one very small silver lining that many experienced, initially at least, was a taking the foot off the gas and having so many things stripped back and cut out. Suddenly we couldn’t plan to see friends, book up our diaries, attend extra work commitments, juggle different family outings and needs, plan and pack for holidays, negotiate social meet ups. There wasn’t the option to do that, and with it came a simplicity. Take a look at the sales of lounge wear and PJs (I’d love to do a poll of how many of us took advantage of Zoom work calls with top half suited and booted and bottom half indulging in PJ bottoms and slippers!) and garden equipment and plants that soared during Lockdown, and it tells a story of increased relaxation and slowness, an appreciation of the smaller things in life.
If anyone is like me, the novelty and appreciation of this was definitely tested the longer Lockdown went on – and certainly when we hit the New Year Lockdown with dreary weather and gearing up for home-schooling again, my heart felt less appreciative. Nonetheless, the enforced simplicity remained the same.
Our culture applauds the busy. The doing. The work achievements. The amount of overtime that is put in. The crammed diary that runs our kids to this or that social club after school. The programmes. We can feel slightly in awe and often inferior when someone tells us all the things that they are ‘doing’. Yet rarely would we share that we spent the day or an evening ‘being’, doing things that are restful for our physical bodies and spiritual souls, or if we were to, we might feel slightly guilty or apologetic for doing so. What is this about?
Essentially it stems from a doing rather than being culture. In the familiar passage in Luke 10, the story is told of two sisters who are hosting their good friend Jesus for a meal. Both care for and love Jesus but while Mary prioritises being with Jesus (sitting as his feet and listening to him) when Jesus is with them, Martha is busy running around preparing the meal and home. Notice that both are active, both have made a choice, but the sisters have made different ones. “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” (Luke 10:40). This is the exasperated cry that Mary lets out in judgement of her sister’s choice. I wonder why she cares so much? Is it because it seems unfair or unbalanced to Martha? Is it because, deep down, she knows she has not chosen wisely and her busying is costly in time with her Lord?
Interestingly, Martha wasn’t worried about ‘bad things’. She wasn’t worried about things she couldn’t control like illness or the loss of a job, she wasn’t worried about insignificant things like a spider running across the floor; she was worried about good things – about wanting to make a sumptuous meal for her friend, wanting to give her best. We can often give a silent tut at Martha and think “how could she have missed it, how could she have prioritised time cooking and rushing and grumbling than spending time with Jesus. I mean, she had Jesus IN her house. If I had Jesus in my house, I would sit with him 24/7, I wouldn’t get so distracted”. Yet when we get off our high horses of pride and step back for a moment and allow the Holy Spirit to examine our hearts, we find that we often get distracted by the GOOD too. The doing. The resourcing. The rushing. The diary cramming. The things that in and of themselves aren’t bad, but BECOME bad when we allow them to rule our diaries or our hearts, or when they squeeze out time to BE with Jesus. There is no magic formula of how much, too much or when. That’s why we need the Spirit to keep us in step with Him.
What does it look like to hear God’s command to be with him over the world’s applause of busyness? It means getting our heads and our hearts and our EARS into the Word of God, depending on the Holy Spirit to open up and apply the Bible’s unchanging truths to our hearts. There are SO many other loud noises, distractions and sins in this life that will look to lead us away; unless we fight to Mary rather than to Martha, our trajectory will naturally go in one direction.
We don’t hear the next bit of the story, Luke doesn’t tell us whether Martha puts down her rag cloth and pan, takes a deep breath and makes a different choice – to come and sit alongside Mary with her Jesus, or whether she rolls her eyes and says “yeah right, well that’s alright for her but for me I need to do…..”. But I like to think that she made the first choice. I like to think that she did receive the loving correction from her friend Jesus, that she accepted the invitation to come because when Jesus speaks, He does so with authority that changes us. If we are open.
So how about you today. Are you fighting for that time? Are you intentionally building in time to be with Jesus? Are you willing to creatively use the pockets of time during your day to commune with Him, love Him, meditate on His truth, hear from Him? What are the good things that have become a distraction in your diary and heart or where are you serving out of a posture of “do” rather than “be”? And will you let the Spirit examine your heart and lead you this week…